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Waking Up And It’s Spring

I'm a member of Crisis. I spent nearly a year in the hotel last year, whilst just waiting for somewhere of my own to live, and it was really, really hard going. I mean, I'm forty-eight I don't have any sort of social issues, I've never been homeless before. I never anticipated I was going to be, but you know, one nightmare relationship later and there I was. I mean, if it hadn't been for the support of Crisis at the outset, and then, you know, the Old Fire Station, I'm not even sure I’d still be here.   

 

I'm quite arty crafty by nature. I have been doing sewing and things for a long time. But obviously over the last couple of years life’s been very ‘interesting’, to put it nicely. Anyway, so they asked me if I'd like to do a traineeship in costume. And which, you know, I jumped at the chance of - any excuse to sew. I just thought, what an amazing opportunity. 

  

I was working under Ann, the costume designer (who has worked for things like the Crown on Netflix), who would give me tasks. It was great because Ann would give me a task and then let me get on with it. She wasn't someone who was like overseeing everything all of the time. Obviously, she's got a running list in her head with what's going on. But she kind of let me dress the character of Margarita, essentially. We bought the kimono that she wears at the beginning. And that's beautiful, actually. Everything had to be made to look like it had been cobbled together. And I made her earrings, which were made out of glass leaves, and sparkly bits and sequins and stuff, which were actually remarkably difficult to make. And they seem so inconsequential in the performance, but I guess they added to the overall look. I'm not a jeweler, by any stretch, you know. And so, we did that. And what else did I make for her, like, from scratch? The turban that she wore for the main performance, with the rose on. I made that, that started out as a flat piece of black fabric. So that was quite technical, actually. But it actually turned out really well. I was proud of it in the end.   

  

It was lovely to work with people I wouldn't have met otherwise. People were very chatty and friendly. Everyone that I came across was lovely. I felt really supported by the Old Fire Station. When I couldn't come in, they were very reassuring because I've got quite bad anxiety. And I felt like I was letting people down if I wasn't there. But people accommodated me really, really kindly. And everybody dealt with me with tact and kindness and thought, and I wasn't made to feel different, you know, and I met some amazing people.    

  

To be able to just be involved and to feel, I suppose how most people feel most of the time maybe? And I had forgotten what that felt like. And now I've remembered I want more. I want more of that. I haven't sewed for ten-plus years. And so, it kind of re-awoke a thing in me that reminded me of who I am, or who I could be. And that is massive, I think, in terms of confidence and how you interact in other circumstances. Because I think when you become a problem, you lose all confidence. Because what have you got to offer? You know, you can't even house yourself.    

  

So instead of it being something I didn't know how to do, or wasn't able to do, this was something I could do. That stretched me, but not in a way that was too frightening. And it reminded me of who I actually am underneath all the dross of just trying to navigate the system, and so on. This gave me a taste of what I could have, and who I actually am. And who, with some effort on my part and some support from people who are very supportive, that I could be, you know, that this could be me all the time.   

  

It sounds silly and a bit over the top, doesn't it? But it is life changing. You know, and it does restore your faith in people. And it does build confidence in ways that I don't even think the Old Fire Station necessarily realise, you know. It's not just about performance, it’s not just about the skills that you learn. I mean, that's really important and really special, but it's the other parts that are life altering in really positive ways. The things that they think are just normal, the way that they speak to you, the way that you're talked to, involved, listened to, asked your opinion of, those are things that you lose when you become homeless, or you have some massive social crisis, you know. You don't just lose your home, you lose anything positive, really, you just become this thing to be solved and dealt with. And as I say, because they're all such nice people, I think they just think everybody is like that. And they’re not, so it's hugely important.    

  

It's learning to live in a healthier way, and also just remembering that you have value, that you have something to offer, because you're listened to and changes are made because of the suggestions that you've made, even small suggestions. It's those bits that make it feel like a fair exchange. You feel like you're actually engaged in this exchange of ideas, this exchange of skills. Yeah. On an even level, I suppose. I was made to feel valuable and important, and listened to. And those raw skills again, they are life changing, because they change the way that you interact with people, and I think it's starting to get that confidence back. Yeah. It's like the colour coming back into the world.   

  

And then to see the play made real and to go and watch it as an audience. It was magical, and it was believable, and it became this thing when you added the lighting and the set and the acting. You know, it becomes this whole entity of its own, doesn’t it? And it is, it's like a whole creature and you’re watching it.   

  

I talked to people, and they said, ‘Why do you need the arts?’ but that's the bit that makes you a real person, and not a statistic. It’s like being awakened, isn’t it. It’s kind of like you've been hibernating for a really long time. And you find that your existing, you know. And I think what this offers, it’s like waking up and it's spring.    

  

And ultimately, and in part as a result of this, I'm hoping to go to college, either September coming or the one after, for sure, to do textiles. Just going to college would be a massive thing for me now because I'm forty-eight. I haven't been in education in twenty-something years. This is something that in some way I can find a way of making a career out of, of some sort, you know, and even if I didn't I could still sort of volunteer. I can't imagine never having it again. That would be horrible. I was really sad when it ended.   

  

And so, I am really hoping that I can do more stuff with the Old Fire Station because what I found was it does feed you at a level I'd forgotten. It made me feel like a real person again, like a proper person, I suppose. Yeah, next time they need some funding I’ll stand there and talk about how vital the work is, I'd shout it from the rooftops given the chance!

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